the 1941 season everything went right. Ted had learned his
lessons and he
was coming into
his full strength. The wind was with him. The breaks were with him.
Hell, the gods were with him. “Everything I hit fell in. Every break
that I could get I got.”
the summer of 1941, twenty-two-year-old Ted Williams
and twenty-six-year-old Joe DiMaggio put together seasons
that will last for as long as there are plaques in Cooperstown
and new generations to marvel at their deeds. Joe DiMaggio
reeled off his fifty-six-game hitting streak, the best
of all time, and Ted became the last man to hit .400.
It was a season that links their names together forever,
with each of them magnifying and making more luminous
the deeds of the other. And yet they were not really
tied that closely together during the season itself.
its very nature, a consecutive-game streak has no latitude
for failure. Any newspaper editor will tell you that there
is no story more gripping – or better for circulation
– than the Girl in the Hole. Will the rescuers get to
her in time to save her life, or won’t they? With DiMaggio,
it was a life or death story every day. Click to view the
game’s longest hitting streaks: http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/library/research_lists/hit_streaks.htm
Ted Williams’ quest for a .400 season, by contrast, did not
turn into a cliff-hanger until the very last day of the season.
And while there is nothing to be gained by glorifying Ted
at the expense of DiMaggio, it is fair to say that with the
passage of time it is Williams’ .406 that looms larger than
DiMaggio’s fifty-six games. It was not always thus.
season with which Ted Williams will be forever identified
did not start out too well for him. For the third straight
year, he was a no-show on the opening day of spring training.
When he finally phoned the long-suffering Eddie Collins a
day later, he explained that he has been so busy hunting wolves
in the wilds of Minnesota – that must have made Collins feel
better – that he lost all track of the date. To show how contrite
he was he promised Collins that he would jump into his car
and drive right down.
In the second exhibition game, he caught his spikes as he
was sliding into second base and chipped a bone in the ankle
of his right foot. As a result, he came out of training camp
limping and was restricted to little more than pinch-hitting
duty over the first twelve games.